Falls shuts down Ridge

NEWTON FALLS – In a sea of gray and orange uniforms, the Newton Falls Tigers came out victorious in a 6-1 sectional victory over the Mineral Ridge Rams.

Dylan McAvoy pitched a complete game three-hitter in the win for Newton Falls.

With the victory, the Tigers improved to 13-5, as they’ll travel to LaBrae to take on the Vikings in a Division III LaBrae District, sectional final this afternoon. McAvoy finished his afternoon with five strikeouts and allowed just one walk on 78 pitches.

“Dylan did a great job today … his fastball, curve, changeup, everything was working,” Newton Falls coach Rob Bauman said.

“In the beginning, I was just getting loose, and they came out aggressive and ready to swing, ready to make runs. It was tough keeping the ball away from them,” McAvoy said.

The first three innings of the game went by mostly uneventful, as neither team put together much of a scoring threat. Finally, in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Tigers found their groove, as Rams pitcher Jared Gherardi found himself in a jam, loading the bases after allowing a single and hitting two batters.

With one out, Dave Hukari hit a sac fly to centerfield, allowing Hayden Sherwood to tag and score from third. After Newton Falls left runners on second and third to end the inning, the Tigers came back in the bottom half of the fifth and scored again Sherwood hit an RBI single past the second baseman, allowing Nate Harrah to score from second.

The inning could have been more productive for the Tigers. Harrah’s double to right-center field should have scored J.J. Nicholas, but the umpire called Nicholas out for not touching third base, much to Bauman’s dismay. After a heated argument, Bauman conceded to the umpire, and eventually, they got back on good terms.

“He’s gotta do his job and he saw it, so I kinda dropped it,” Bauman said.

Leading 2-0 heading into the top of the sixth inning, McAvoy appeared to be cruising to an easy victory, but Mineral Ridge rallied.

McAvoy beamed Gherardi, and he moved to second base on a passed ball. A Mike McLean single was followed by a Mac White single to centerfield, scoring Gherardi, to cut the lead to 2-1.

However, during Aaron Frantz’ at-bat, McLean, now on third, drifted too far off the bag and got caught in a rundown. He was tagged out, and then the runner on second, White, also got caught in a rundown, between second and third base, and was tagged out for an inning-ending double play.

“Things were gettin’ rough, I started slowing down, lost a little bit of focus,” McAvoy said. “(I) had to overcome that and pitch around them.”

Bauman helped him do that.

“I told him to calm down and throw his game, hit his spots,” he said. “He was leaving some of his pitches up there and they were hitting and sticking those bats out and getting those bloop singles in there.”

Newton Falls added insurance runs in the sixth, as they scored four times and eventually chased Gherardi in the process.

“Yeah he’s a senior, he’s been in big moments before … a couple of those errors kinda rattled him,” Rams coach Andrew Barker said. “He did come back and he kept them off balanced, though.”

Gherardi went 5 1/3 innings, struck out two, walked three and had one very interesting balk call. He tried a hidden ball trick to get the runner out at first base between pitches, but was called for a balk when he failed to step off of the rubber.

The Rams finish 6-14. Barker said it’s a freshmen-laden team that showed promise for the coming years.

“They got good experience this year, our centerfielder, our leftfielder were freshman, our shortstop was a freshman, DH was a freshman and we hung with a very good team,” he said. “They’re not intimidated, there’s nothing too big for them. They complimented our seniors well this year.”

Leading the way for Newton Falls was Nicholas, who was 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, while Harrah and Sherwood added two hits each.

As for today’s matchup with LaBrae, the Tigers split with the Vikings in the regular season. Both Bauman and an already-laid back McAvoy seemed to take the wait-and-see approach for the upcoming game.

“LaBrae’s a good team, they really are. We’ll see what tomorrow brings,” Bauman said. McAvoy, meanwhile, added, “We played them earlier in the season and they’re an aggressive team also…tomorrow we’ll hopefully go out there and see who the better team is.”